No matter what kind of accident you’ve been involved in, whether it’s a car accident that leaves you with serious injuries or a slip on the ice that results in months of chronic pain, it is essential to know whether an insurance company is offering you a fair settlement. It is especially important to get a fair settlement when your injuries cause significant pain or are debilitating, since getting the best possible medical care is key to living a full and happy life. If you take a lowball offer, you may find that you are unable to get the care you need to get back on your feet. Unfortunately, it is incredibly common for insurance companies to offer victims lowball settlements in an effort to pay out as little as possible. The Ohio personal injury attorneys at Kisling, Nestico & Redick have a vast amount of experience dealing with the insurance industry, and have some tips how to make sure you get the amount you need to recover from an accident.
Steps for Avoiding a Lowball Offer
An important first step to take after any accident is to know which types of damages you can claim. This way, if an insurance company offers a lowball settlement, you will be able to recognize this and get legal help if necessary.
After an accident, there are many types of compensation that you may be entitled to if the other party was responsible for your injuries. The first and most common types of damages that people claim after an accident are economic damages, which can be monetarily quantified. These include current medical bills, future medical treatments, property damage, and lost wages. In all of these cases, a dollar value can be easily assigned and paid out.
However, accident victims also endure other types of losses after an accident and are commonly entitled to what are known as “general damages.” These types of damages are noneconomic, cannot be easily monetized, and include physical or emotional pain and suffering, loss of activities you once enjoyed, or even relationships that suffer due to injuries that you sustained in an accident. In some cases, when the actions that caused your injuries were especially egregious, such as drunk driving or another reckless act, you may be entitled to punitive damages as well.
If your case is uncomplicated and involves only economic damages, you may be able to total these numbers on your own, but even in these cases, insurance companies often try to avoid paying. In addition, if you believe that you can claim general or punitive damages, it is typically in your best interest to work with an experienced lawyer who understands how to handle non-economic damages.
In general, before you submit any claim to an insurance company, it is a good idea to document your injuries in as much detail as possible. Make a detailed list of the injuries and damages that you sustained, take photographs of any property damage, gather witness statements from anyone who saw what happened, gather receipts, and tell any doctor you see that your injuries were sustained in an accident. It is hard for insurance companies to fight when you have solid evidence of your injuries, so the more documentation you have, the better.
Common Signs of Lowball Settlements
Once you understand the damages to which you are entitled by law, there are several scenarios that you should be aware of that may indicate that an insurance company is trying to offer a lowball settlement.
Damages Are Excluded From the Settlement
If you believe that you are entitled to a specific type of compensation, but it is not included in the insurance company’s settlement offer, this is a red flag. Although all insurance policies have limits on how much they will pay, an insurance company is expected to act in good faith when it investigates your case and calculates the compensation to which you are entitled. While insurance companies are supposed to act fairly, their main goal is to profit. If you notice that a settlement is far below a policy’s limit and does not include all of the economic and non-economic damages to which you are entitled, it is a good indication that you are receiving a lowball settlement.
There Is No Explanation of Your Offer
Ideally, when an insurer submits an offer to an accident victim, it should include an explanation that breaks down what you are being compensated for. If the offer is low, the reason for this should be clear, but unfortunately this is often not the case. Instead, many insurers include no supporting information for their offer in the hopes that the victim will simply accept the total dollar amount offered.
If explanatory information is not provided and the offer seems low to you, especially if it is far below the policy limit, the insurance company may be lowballing you. In this case, contacting the company is a good first step to take. Ask them directly what you are being compensated for, and specifically address anything in your claim that is not being covered.
If you are not comfortable negotiating with an insurance company, a qualified personal injury attorney can do this for you. Typically, once an attorney is involved in the process, the insurance company is more willing to offer a fair settlement for your injuries.
The Insurer Bullies You
One of the most challenging aspects of trying to negotiate a personal injury settlement with an insurance company on your own is that insurers have many tactics for getting you to accept a lowball offer and are experienced at aggressively using them. Intimidation, pressure, and other similar maneuvers are extremely common when you push back against an insurer’s offer, and if you are not prepared for these, it can be an extremely stressful experience. Many people simply give up and accept the insurer’s offer in the face of these challenges, which leaves them with insufficient compensation to take care of their physical and emotional health after an accident.
One specific scenario to be on the lookout for is an insurer who pushes you to accept its offer quickly. After an accident, some injuries emerge immediately, but others may not appear for weeks or months. A doctor may not even understand the full extent of your injuries or be able to diagnose them accurately until after several follow-up visits. Commonly, an insurance company will push you to accept a settlement because they are trying to avoid costs that could arise in the future. When you work with a lawyer, you’ll have someone on your team who will push the company to thoroughly investigate your injuries.
Another favorite tactic of insurance companies is to dispute your injuries or the extent of your injuries. Remember that any injury can be debilitating, even if it was not severe enough to leave you hospitalized or did not threaten your life. By documenting your injuries immediately after your accident, you’ll reduce the likelihood of this happening. If you know that you are injured, do not accept the settlement. Be prepared to discuss it with the company or contact a personal injury lawyer for help.
They Blame You for the Accident
In many states, including Ohio, contributory negligence laws exist. These laws state that even if you are the victim of an accident, if you were in any way responsible for the incident, the total amount of your settlement will be reduced. This is calculated on a percentage-of-fault basis; if you were determined to be 15 percent at fault for your accident, for example, your settlement will be reduced by 15 percent.
If there is any chance that you could be partially responsible for the accident, an insurance company may reduce their settlement offer. In these cases, working with a lawyer who will fight for your rights and fair compensation is a must.
How a Lawyer Can Help
If you are concerned that an insurance company is offering a lowball settlement for your accident, it is typically in your best interests to contact a lawyer for help. Some lawyers are more qualified than others to assist you in these cases.
It is often a good idea to work with a law firm that is well established and has significant experience in the insurance industry. For example, Ohio’s Kisling, Nestico & Redick has vast experience in accident cases, but what sets the firm apart is that much of its legal team has worked for insurance companies directly and seen their strategies and tactics firsthand. This means that they bring years of insider experience in the insurance industry to each and every case and can use their firsthand knowledge to build a better case and get victims fair compensation.
Most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations and can explain your rights and answer your tough questions. It is typically worth it to consult with an attorney, even if you are unsure whether or not they can help.
To learn more or for a free consultation, contact Kisling, Nestico & Redick at 1-800-HURT-NOW.